Friday, October 17, 2003

Snag?

Have plans to bring Turkish troops in to Iraq hit a snag?

Turkey welcomed a U.N. resolution expected to attract more foreign troops and money to restore order in Iraq but signaled its troops could stay out if the resolution succeeds in convincing more countries to send soldiers into the war-battered country.

Several countries have told the United States that they would not send troops to Iraq to boost the U.S. forces there in the absence of a U.N. mandate, but the Turkish Parliament has authorized a deployment without a resolution.

"We may stay out if everyone else goes to Iraq," Turkish officials said on Friday, noting that the resolution, which cleared the U.N. Security Council with a unanimous vote on Thursday, would provide an incentive for other countries to send troops to Iraq.

The statements from Ankara highlight the growing uncertainty over plans to send Turkish troops to Iraq. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the United States was trying to overcome difficulties associated with Turkish troops, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated a final solution might take time, characterizing the issue of a Turkish military contribution as a "complicated" one. Officials, however, welcomed the resolution, saying it was a "step in the right direction."

"This is a step in the direction of Iraq's normalization and a positive development. It will end discussions on international legitimacy," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, in Malaysia for an Islamic summit, said about the U.N. resolution, adding that Turkey was not "obliged or desirous to go to Iraq."

Turkey and the United States have been expected to start technical talks on details of a possible deployment, but Ankara is getting increasingly uneasy over the slow pace at which Washington is handling the issue.

Strong opposition from Iraq's U.S.-picked Governing Council to a possible move to deploy Turkish troops may have forced Washington to revise plans for Turkish troops, comments in the media said.

Massoud Barzani, a member of the Governing Council and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), reiterated on Thursday that Turkish troops would bring instability and threatened to resign from the council if the council approves the deployment. "It is not just the Kurds who are opposed to a Turkish military presence. This is our country and our right, and we insist on our stance. ... If the Governing Council agrees on this, I will hand in my resignation," Barzani told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

Heeding objections from the council, Rumsfeld said Washington, Ankara and the council must agree on the terms of a Turkish deployment.

Amid an exchange of criticism between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurds, major Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is coming to Ankara for talks in November.

Diplomatic sources said the United States should convince the Governing Council, whose members were chosen by Washington. "We have difficulty in understanding the Americans on Iraq. They are confused," Turkish officials said.

If the White House screws this up they deserve all the criticism they will get.


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